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Cathedral - Stained Glass Stories CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.81 | 227 ratings

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5 stars "Stained Glass Stories" should've gone down in history as one of the greatest symphonic prog records of all time. Unfortunately, due to some unfavorable constellation of the stars, it is considered merely a collector's item these days, but that doesn't detract one bit from it's majesty. Of course, no album is perfect, and "Stained Glass Stories" isn't an exception, so a number of flaws is present. influences here) The issue is the often-criticized vocalist, while he does have some ability, his main problem is that he repeatedly reaches for notes he's clearly not comfortable singing, with rather embarrassing results; his other weakness is that his vocal delivery is rather bland and lacking the emotion the music frequently requires . The other members of the band are more proficient: Tom Doncourt supplies plenty of interesting Mellotron, and guitarist Rudy Perrone, though occasionally a bit sloppy, provides tons of melodic hooks and intricate, dissonant guitar lines drawn from many styles; these are augmented by solid, confident bass playing and creative drumming. However, the group's true strength lies in the quality of the compositions, which present in equal amounts complex, inventive ideas and catchy melodies of the highest caliber. Thus , the aforementioned inconsistencies and occasional dull moments are more than made up for to establish this as a prog classic.

The first track, "Introspect" begins with a calm intro that lasts for about 45 seconds before exploding with outstanding guitar/Mellotron interplay that provides one of the album's best moments, although it's over rather quickly, replaced by a mellow but likeable vocal section, which after a while makes way for tribal-sounding drums and bass riffs; these in turn lead into further interplay with intricate arrangements and a somewhat ominous atmosphere. Unfortunately, the moody melodic part that follows the strange-sounding Mellotron interlude is ruined by the weak, inexpressive vocals , but the following sections make up for this shortcoming with more great ideas and playing. The first several minutes generally constitute the stronger part of the song, but it's as a great an opener as one could hope for.

Following "Introspect" is "Gong", an instrumental number and probably my favorite on the album, mainly because of the superb sinister section guided by Doncourt's ominous organ work that occurs in the early part of the track. But it has lots more to offer, from the sweet, mellow guitar riff that is repeated throughout to the great transition sections, and is a towering achievement of 70s prog.

"The Crossing" would have to be the weakest song on the album, although it's not bad at all. A choral arrangement opens the song, unfortunately followed by an annoying funky section; it's redeemed, once again, by the tasteful guitars and keyboards, just not to the point where it can compete with the rest of "Stained Glass Stories".

The album gets back on track with "Days and Changes", although it too starts in a somewhat disheartening fashion as the singer decides to open the track unaccompanied. Perhaps I'm too harsh on the guy - after all, he does have a fine voice and could've been a capable singer had he taken some proper vocal training; unfortunately, it appears that he hadn't , and the results aren't satisfying. But soon the music takes over with a mighty guitar riff , once again displaying the bands ability to pull outstanding ideas out the ass. The song continues meandering through various impressive parts, ranging from Yes-like melodies to jazz guitar interludes, and is another majestic prog number.

Finally, we have "The Search" , an epic track that certainly doesn't disappoint . It begins with Perrone bouncing tasty guitar fills off Doncourt's Mellotron, following which is a great verse section (I love how the tonality changes from light and optimistic to unexpectedly ominous ). From there we are treated to more great prog rock music, full of interesting, intricate ideas and great instrumentation, making the song a fine way to end a fantastic album.

To sum things up, I repeat that while the "Stained Glass Stories" does have it's shortcomings, it easily surpasses the vast majority of what most consider to be classics of prog rock. It's a shame that these guys threw in the towel so early - I'm quite sure they had the potential for at least one more classic prog masterpiece.


Pafnutij | 5/5 |


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